mental health

Simple Ways for Parents to Gauge and Support Kids' Mental Health

Dr. Lee Beers spoke to News4 about how to navigate mental health at home amid a pandemic that's challenged us all

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Children are struggling with more mental health issues during the ongoing pandemic, but sometimes it’s difficult for parents to assess whether their children are in crisis.

A leading mental health advocate from Children's National Hospital offers some steps parents can take to connect with their kids and help them during a difficult time.

Dr. Lee Beers, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s medical director of community health and advocacy, says it starts with giving yourself and your family a little grace.

“Knowing that things are upside down right now, I think that’s an important thing to remember to start with,” Dr. Beers said.

She says it’s important for kids to have some unstructured time, especially to get their bodies and brains activated.

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Beers started taking brief, 20-minute walks with her teenage daughter each morning.

Maryland mom Mandie Peters’ first-grader is energetic and loves school. But distance learning has had a devastating impact on the child’s mental health. “I’m not just overreacting on this stuff. This is something that’s real,” Peters said, beginning to cry. News4’s Eun Yang reports.

“It’s been great for both of us because we have this time together. Sometimes we don’t say very much, sometimes we talk a lot,” Dr. Beers said.

If your child is reluctant to talk, ask indirect questions to try and learn more about what’s going on in their lives.

Asking how their friends are doing or what they think of the pandemic are general topics that could give you insight into how your child is thinking or coping with challenges.

Dr. Beers advises you look for significant changes in your child’s behavior or habits, including drops in grades or school performance or showing resistance to activities you hadn’t seen resistance to before.

More serious signs of significant mental health concerns include kids giving away their things or talking about passing their stuff to others.

If you do have serious concerns, you should call your pediatrician right away or a crisis line, such as the free SAMHSA's National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

The pandemic is having a noticeable impact on kids' mental health, with isolation and upended routines making it harder to cope. News4's Eun Yang talks to an expert.

Professionals can help you figure out if behavioral changes are serious. They can also connect you with resources and talk through specific advice for your family.

Health experts say each child and family situation is different so there is no one solution or strategy that will work for everyone.

If you are concerned about your child's mental health, don't wait to seek help.

Friday at 8 a.m., Dr. Beers will join us on Facebook for a live conversation to answer some of your questions. Follow NBC Washington on Facebook to join in.

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